Nothing gold can stay.–Robert Frost
The sunroom has windows on three sides. To my left, fat squirrels play chase under trees that sway in a biting, northerly wind. To my right, a neighbor rakes and rakes and rakes before disappearing behind his ramshackle shed and setting fire to his leafy haul. Bright yellow leaves twirl and dance and land on my car that is parked in the gravel driveway of the house I am renting for the month of October.
The smell of the neighbor’s fire mixes with fresh grass and meets my nose. Above me, stubborn leaves dance brilliant gold against a crystal blue sky. Huge oaks and maples -so recently buzzing with in a summer haze – will soon be brittle and bare, coated in ice. To the not-so-distant west, heavy clouds gather and threaten to dump a coating of snow on the scarecrows, bringing the brilliance to its frozen end.
Autumn is the only season that confronts us so directly with its impermanence.
But it’s no shorter than summer or winter. I’m no physicist but I am confident that time doesn’t move more quickly in October than it does in May.
Maybe it’s the only truly honest season. Fall shows us in vibrant hues just how quickly it’s passing, inviting those of us who are brave enough to consider it, that other seasons pass just as quickly. Honking clouds of geese move overhead, marking time in the sky as summer slides out of view. Winter rises above the horizon like the harvest moon. No other season is this transparent in its transience.
Summer marks time with big holidays; the payoff we wait for all year then forget to enjoy while we nurse our sunburns. Winter assuages early dread with fairytale silver snow sprinkles then brutalizes us in darkness for months that feel endless. And doesn’t everybody except the eager agronomist just wait for poor spring to be over? It’s the broccoli we choke down to get to summer’s dessert.
But fall, though.
Every gently falling leaf taps us on the shoulder and invites us to take a look around every now and then. Its holidays force us not only to witness but celebrate the extremes of death and harvest and scarcity.
Fall is no shorter or more fleeting than summer, winter or spring. It’s just the most contagiously self-aware.